So you’re thinking about getting a drone? Owning a drone can be one of the greatest joys in your life – as long as you take the time to do some research before you make your first purchase. Of course, there are various reasons to get a drone, but perhaps one of the biggest reasons is because they just look so awesome and fun!
We here at AHR have put together a quick getting started guide for you that pertains to drones. We’ll talk about what they are, which one might be right for you, and how to go about purchasing the right one. Hopefully, this will help you get started on the right foot as you enter the world of drones.
With the exciting changes taking place in the drone industry, now is an excellent time to enter the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle waters. We hope this getting started guide will provide you the information you need to have a successful experience with your done.
Contents (Jump to)
- 1 What is a Drone?
- 2 Should You Get a Drone?
- 3 Things to Consider
- 4 Others Think Drones are Dangerous
- 5 Types of Drones
- 6 Drone Terminology
- 7 Have Fun Flying!
What is a Drone?
Before we get too far into what to look for in a drone, let’s first define what it is. Traditionally, drone has been a term which has military connotations. It became interchangeable with other military acronyms like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). These phrases are used to describe autonomously programmed or remote control devices.
Today, drones take on many more purposes. Many people use drones recreation. These gadgets are also used in aerial videography and photography, can inspect industrial towers and flare stacks, and have the ability to carry cargo. Drones are also used for tracking wildlife as well as determining the stability of the national infrastructure without putting lives at risk.
Drone technology continues to make significant advancements which makes them more affordable than ever before. At the same time, the drone community has grown steadily over the past few years as excitement continues to build.
Should You Get a Drone?
This is the real question, isn’t it? But seriously, why wouldn’t you want a flying robot? If you’re interested in drone technology or their capabilities, then, of course, the answer to this question is yes. The easiest way to learn more about drones is to go out and pilot one yourself.
Doing so will give you an appreciation for how challenging and advanced these devices are. They do take a while to master, however, once you get the hang of it, you can have a lot of fun with these aerial devices.
Things to Consider
If you’re just starting to get into the drone market there are a few things to consider before making your purchase. Here’s a quick list of items to think about:
Price is Important but Isn’t Everything
Just like with many things you buy, with drones, you’ll get what you pay for. You’ll get more features with your device if you’re willing to shell out more money. Some say this makes flying easier, however, there are others who suggest that crashing an expensive device is a hard lesson to learn.
One great example is the Hubsan X4. This is a great drone for just starting out learning how to operate your drone. It doesn’t have the sensors you’ll find on a more expensive device which help it hover, and it won’t return to you if you lose sight of it. But if you destroy it, you won’t have wasted a lot of your hard-earned money.
GPS is a valuable feature to have when you’re just starting out. The Parrot Bebop drone isn’t a bad place to start if you need a stable flying option right out of the box. You won’t find GPS on toy-grade drones, however, if you lose your device, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to find it.
Short Flight Times
When it comes to drones, battery life is still the biggest disadvantage. Many drones with cameras might give you a flight time of around 30 minutes. Remember that when you’re looking for a drone, the battery life was more than likely achieved in a controlled environment under ideal conditions.
The stronger the wind, the faster you fly, or the more weight added to your drone are all factors that drain your device battery. Additionally, you’ll have to account for the amount of time it takes your drone to get up and into the air, which the manufacturer does not include in its flight time.
For the most part, you’ll want to take the number the manufacturer provides and reduce it by around five or ten minutes. You’ll usually get 5-7 minutes of flying time with toy-drones while 10-12 minutes in the intermediate options.
There’s More Than Just the Cost of the Drone
Let’s say you just spent a cool $1,000 on a drone. Unfortunately, you’re not done spending. More than likely you’ll want to have a few extra batteries on hand. You might need some additional propellers. Maybe a quick charger so you can be up and flying again in no time.
Don’t forget that since you’re inexperienced and new to flying you’re probably going to crash a few times as you start out. This leads to repair costs either for shipping it back to the manufacturer or for replacement parts. Some drones, like DJI, however, offer insurance for their devices.
As you shop for your drone, take a moment to determine how hard it is to find additional batteries, replacement parts, and other accessories you want. Don’t forget to be wary of third-party parts as well. These parts may not be the same quality as the original parts or may not be compatible with your drone.
People Will Think You’re Spying
Another challenge you’ll run into as a drone owner is that when you’re out flying it, people tend to think you’re up to no good. Some will think you’re spying on them or on someone else. You might be far as far away from civilization as you thought you could be, but someone sees your drone and reports you for nefarious reasons. Just be aware that this is a possibility when you’re out flying.
Others Think Drones are Dangerous
Whether you’re the safest drone pilot on the planet or out running your drone into people’s houses, they’ll still tell you what you’re doing is dangerous, which is a fair response. Those plastic blades spinning around at high speed don’t exactly scream “this is safe.”
Of course, then there’s the possibility your device might experience some type of system failure or move unpredictably. So it’s normal to be a little concerned about something like that moving around in the air near you.
To help alleviate some of those fears, you can look into getting insurance for your drone. Some offer comprehensive coverage while others provide accident and medical coverage. Either way, it might be wise to invest in some type of protection in the event that your drone inadvertently hurts someone or damages someone’s property.
It Can Be a Challenge to Find Places to Fly
If you live in the city it might be difficult to find safe and legal places to fly your drone. National parks in the US are off limits, as are many state parks, so be sure to check with your state before you fly. A lot of parks have varying regulations and rules as they pertain to RC aircraft. So make sure it’s okay prior to taking your drone out for a spin.
Before buying your drone it might be wise to visit some sites like Mapbox or AirMap so you can check for no-fly zones. Unfortunately, these sites don’t provide state or local ordinance information, so you’ll still need to reach out to those locations before heading out to fly.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the United States requires that anyone who flies an unmanned aerial system which weighs between half a pound and 55 pounds must first register the device with them. If you don’t, you could incur penalties ranging from $25,000 to $250,000.
Many smaller drones will fall under the half pound weight limitation, however, you might want to check with the manufacturer prior to purchasing the drone if you don’t want to mess with registering it. This applies to both homemade DIY aircraft and store-bought drones.
You can do the registration online at the FAA site. It only takes a few minutes and costs $5. You only have to register yourself as a flyer, not all the aircraft you own. The site will assign you a number, which you’ll attach to your drone while flying it. That’s all there is to it.
Types of Drones
There are three primary types of drones from which you can choose. Each has their own distinct capabilities and are used for different purposes.
Drones for Beginners
There are drones that are more affordable but have shorter flight times and range. The FQ-777 might be a good option if you’re looking for a beginner drone. These devices are easy to fly and have a durable build so they won’t break apart when they experience a minor crash. Additionally, these types of drones usually have easy to find spare parts.
Key Reviews and Guides
When you’re ready to move up to hobby-level drones, you’ll discover some advanced features. These are typically targeted toward those with more flying experience. Hobby drones are more durable and often have longer ranges, special cameras, and other features that make them appealing to seasoned flyers. For a good hobby drone, you might consider looking at the DJI-Phantom 2.
Key Reviews and Guides:
- Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Review
- Parrot AR vs DJI Phantom Compared
- Parrot Bebop vs DJI Phantom 2 Vision+
- DJI Inspire 1 Review
- DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Review
- DJI Phantom 3 Review
Professional-grade drones like the Yuneeq Q500 4K Typhoon are much more expensive since you’re getting advanced features which allow for amazing photos and footage to be captured. These types of aircraft come with high-quality cameras and regularly use GPS tracking. This means they’re better equipped to return home which makes it easier to find them if they get lost.
Key Reviews and Guides
Just like with other hobbies, there are always terms and abbreviations that you have to learn to have a better understanding. Here are some of the more common ones you’ll need to know if you’re interested in drones:
Almost Ready to Fly (ARTF)
These are drones that require a little assembly or equipment before they are ready to fly.
Ready to Fly (RTF)
This is a drone that is ready to fly right out of the box. No assembly or additional equipment is needed.
Return to Home (RTH)
RTH is a safety feature which allows your drone to automatically return back to your location or to its starting point.
First Person View (FPV)
This is a video feed which comes directly from the camera on your drone. You can use it to take photos or videos or for navigation while you’re flying.
Gimbal is a camera stabilization system which allows for the taking of sharp pictures and smooth videos, even in high winds or using fast movements.
Drones with this feature can follow a subject automatically using GPS. The drone uses the signal from a remote control, beacon, or mobile device to track it.
Brushless motors are more expensive than brushed motors, however, they are quieter, last longer, and are more efficient.
You might hear or see this one a lot if you’re a beginner. Headless mode means your drone will always travel left, right, forward, or backward when you move the sticks on your remote in those directions. This happens regardless of which way your drone is facing.
Have Fun Flying!
As you can see there is much more to owning a drone than just taking it out of the box and flying it. There are several things to consider before you spend your money on one of these flying devices. In addition to deciding what type of drone you want, don’t forget to make sure you register it with the FAA if necessary.
Hopefully, our guide helps you get a better understanding of drone basics before you run out and buy one. There is more than meets the eye with these little devices. Overall though, they’re meant for fun, so grab your drone, head outside, and have a good time!